The web advertising arms race heats up as Facebook opens its Audience Network to the public

Facebook took its Audience Network out of beta Tuesday and introduced it to the wider public. Now, any app developer can serve themselves a scoop of advertising — and accompanying revenue — through Facebook’s ad network. Likewise, anyone who advertises on Facebook can also push their ads out through Facebook’s app network, using Facebook’s user data to target ads based on a person’s gender, age, location, and interests.

It’s the latest news in the social media giant’s ongoing advertising efforts, following closely on the heels of its relaunch of Atlas. That’s Facebook’s ad server that competes with Google’s DoubleClick, distributing banner ads to websites and mobile sites.

The Audience Network allows developers to integrate ads into their apps via an API. With the API, the Facebook-served ads will appear native to the app, with the same styling and coloring of the app itself. “The future of ads is all about showing you ads that are integral to the app experience,” Facebook’s head of mobile monetization Sriram Kirshnan told me. “If you look at the ads inside [Facebook] Newsfeed, they don’t interrupt you or annoy you, they look like they’re part of the newsfeed itself.”

Facebook famously struggled with making money on mobile following its public offering, and now, it’s using the lessons it learned during that time to make its ad network as profitable as possible, for app developers, advertisers, and Facebook itself.

It’s clear at this point that Facebook’s future business growth isn’t tied to just the Facebook application. The company has watched Google and realized that the real money is to be made in advertising everywhere on the web. There are few companies that could compete with Google in this regard, but Facebook has the type of user data that might attract ad agencies to use it in conjunction with, or instead of, Google’s cookie-powered data.

When I spoke with a branch of the nation’s biggest advertising agency, Omnicom Digital, the CEO Jonathan Nelson told me Facebook’s advertising data solves the pain point of sending ads to the wrong individuals because cookie data mistook their age or gender.

Facebook has the lead with native mobile app advertising. Its expansion of its Audience Network solidifies that dominance. But Twitter will be trying to catch up. At its upcoming – and first ever — mobile developer conference, Twitter is expected to launch a holistic product for app developers that helps them track their app’s performance, log in users, and serve up ads.

Let the battle begin for advertisers, publishers, and eyeballs.